Afghanistan: We're Here Because We're Here Because...

07/26/2010 06:15 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2011

The release of over 90,000 classified documents by Wikileaks yesterday confirms what a growing chorus of foreign policy experts, journalists, and legislators has been saying for years—that from the outset, NATO governments have presented to the world a severely distorted picture of what is happening in Afghanistan.

Civilian casualties and possible war crimes were concealed from the public's view. Countless border skirmishes between the (supposedly allied) Afghan and Pakistani armies were also buried under the rug.

The documents also show that American officials have been aware for years that elements within Pakistan's military-intelligence complex are almost definitely aiding insurgents, even though in public they have repeatedly insisted that Pakistan is its ally against the Taliban.

National Security Advisor James Jones's reaction to the leaks demonstrates how deeply in denial senior U.S. officials are with regard to this war: "If Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards," he warns, "we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like Al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train."

Earth to General Jones: Afghanistan already is sliding backwards.

And NATO's war in Afghanistan is not making America and its allies more secure. Civilian casualties make it easier for terrorists to attract recruits. It undermines America's moral standing in the world, furthering the perception that the West, while keen to apply its reading of international law throughout the world, holds itself to a considerably lower standard.

Washington has also undermined its standing with its own people by refusing to give them the information they need to make a reasoned judgment as to whether they want to continue supporting this war. This further undermines Americans' already tenuous trust in their government and will likely make it easier for birthers, census-haters, and other conspiracy theorists to attract followers.

NATO's prolonged campaign gave militants an arena where they could find new ways to kill Western troops and become more dangerous than ever. It's also giving them the cash they need to do this—Afghan contractors, hired by the Pentagon to secure its convoys, have reportedly funneled many of the millions of dollars they received from Washington into the Taliban's coffers.

And Hamid Karzai's plans for achieving a U.S.-backed "peace" with the Taliban—such as releasing Taliban prisoners en masse and having Taliban leaders removed from the UN's terrorist watch list—won't make anyone safer.

Furthermore, even if we achieved the goal we are apparently trying to achieve in Afghanistan—victory over the Taliban—it wouldn't put an end to international terrorism. It likely wouldn't even put a dent in it.

This is an age where anyone with a laptop and a broadband internet connection can instantly access mounds of jihadist propaganda and figure out how to build a bomb. Afghan insurgents themselves learned how to improve their IEDs by consulting sympathizers online.

And would-be terrorists would still have plenty of places to train. There's northwest Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden is still said to be hiding, out of NATO's reach. Somalia's Al Shabab militia recently made the leap from national to international terrorism. Yemen is widely acknowledged to be an emerging terror hub.

Which brings us to the question everybody's asking, and that nobody seems capable of answering: why are we in Afghanistan?

While trudging through the trenches of the First World War, British soldiers sang a song (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne) that more or less explained why they were sent by the millions to France to intervene in what began as a dispute between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire over the assassination of a Hapsburg Archduke. It seems to just as aptly explain why NATO is still in Afghanistan:

We're here because we're here because
we're here because we're here!
We're here because we're here because
we're here because we're here!

Another of President Obama's strategic reviews of the Afghan war is due this December.

Maybe this time, faced with a public increasingly fed up with a war that according to the government's own reports seems to be going nowhere, the White House will finally decide that "because we're here" isn't a good enough reason to keep putting American lives at risk, and accelerate U.S. troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan.